Like many people I sat down to watch the leadership debate on Thursday with low expectations. From the studio that housed Stars in Their Eyes I feared that the ITV gameshow unit would lock each contender in a box filled with dry ice and require them to push some big button. It appeared though that this wasn’t one of the 76 rules for the debate. Instead, with a quick redress of the Fifteen to One final set and William G’s younger brother, Alastair (Police camera "I’ll come along quietly officer" action) Stewart, in position as the eccentric barking host with his catchphrase "This is a devolved area" I watched Messrs Clegg, Cameron, and Brown set out their stall in their bid to take the leadership of New Iceland.
My wife and I were joined on the couch by our six year old who – conscious that something historic was happening – decided he would watch the first few minutes with us.
His initial opinion was,
"that man in the middle looks scared."
an opinion with which few viewing could disagree as Dave ran the full gamut of his tense emotions – lip licking, shifty eyes darting from side to side, and voice trembling on occasion while studiously avoiding looking at either of the other leadership contenders when they spoke. Aardman’s very own Dave Cameron had an anecdote for every occasion and appeared to go through a checklist of things to mention (his early reference to meeting "a black man" some 40 years old who had been in the Royal Navy for thirty years (sic) and disliked immigrants used up the military, ethnic minorities, and a dislike of immigrants in one ten second anecdote causing paroxysms of delight through the Dorriesite wing of the blogosphere and twittersphere.
My son’s later analysis,
"The man on the left looks friendly"
also seemed to the point. Clegg’s smiley face as he realised that when a red light is on a camera it means it’s on you and it’s probably an idea to look at it (given that there are 10 million or so poor sods at home), and regular name checks for the asking audience members (with the unusual trick of endeavouring to answer the question asked – ignoring the Jim Hacker approach of "that’s a very good question, but you must agree that the real question is") seemed to play well with the audience.
And Prudence? Well Prudence was Prudence. Never looking happier than when banging on with statistics. He seemed to have some substantive policies about him, was less anecdotal, and seemed more relaxed than expected.
As my son retired for the evening, my wife and I were left watching the debate. We both thought Brown did reasonably well. We both thought Clegg had been the most impressive. We both felt Cameron looked petrified for much of the time, ignored the great ignored (my latest satirical endeavour), his Big Society (which I like to think of as a student organisation comprising an intrepid band of Tom Hanks fans celebrating his weaker films), seemed weak on detail, weak on policy, and in a permanent state of apprehension and fear.
Anyway, imagine my surprise when I turned to the Sky website at 10.20 to view its instant poll of 4000 plus people on who had won the debate:
This didn’t accord with my view, or the twitter sentiment, or the poll on Channel 4 website or the ITv website, or the radio or TV analysis.
But Sky pushed this, Nadine Dorries proclaimed the debate Cameron’s based on these figures, and when it became apparent that this wasn’t setting the news agenda in the way that someone had expected Sky changed position.
At 10.25 the poll was as follows:
Aardman’s own had dropped from clear winner to poor third in the space of 5 minutes – but with exactly the same poll sample and no explanation as to different methodology or weighting.
By this time though the newspapers were starting to pronounce. And when the Mail and the Telegraph as well as the Guardian and the Indy were suggesting that Clegg had had the best of things then clearly someone at Sky decided that they’d misinterpreted the views of the 4200 poor souls on their panel and so by 11.15 they had changed the poll vote to this.
Now some may take a cynical view of this. Some may consider that if they can’t run a snap poll then maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to handle a debate. Some might look at the initial poll and wonder why the channel owned by the man that owns The Sun could so misread the situation.
I though am no cynic.
Anyway, good to see Sky offering something for everyone on the night.
I look forward to Adam Boulton’s SKy debate unleashed with Adam Boulton, live from Adam Boulton’s election bunker, populated with the children, grandchildren and clones of Adam Boulton, with exclusive analysis from Jeff Randall (of Hopkirk deceased fame) which I will be listening to on the radio.
ETA 11.26 pm (found the Sky video where they announce the result – which accords with the general impression of other results.
Here it is: